Bluegill season is approaching, when the scrappy little fish are building and tending spawning beds in the shallows. The spawn brings together large numbers of bluegills, making them easy to find and catch. At other times bluegill are scattered all over the place and an angler is lucky if he can find even a few. During the spawn, which in this area usually begins in mid-May and often lasts through June, anglers catch probably 90 percent of the bluegill they catch all year. In good times on lakes with large bluegill populations, it is common to catch 30 to 50 fish a day.
Bluegill are bigger in some lakes than they are in others. In good bluegill lakes, a significant percentage of the adult bluegill weigh 6-8 ounces. Huge ones weigh 12 ounces. A bluegill that weighs a pound or more is a fish of a lifetime, the equivalent of catching a 9-pound or bigger largemouth bass.
Creating a feeding frenzy is one of the tricks of advanced bluegill fishing. It works this way: If anglers have located a pocket holding a number of bluegill, they try to arouse the competitive spirit of the fish by throwing baits repeatedly and rapidly into the same spot. The bluegill literally get excited, probably believing some kind of insect hatch is taking place.
A crowd gathers in response, with bluegill racing each other to take the bait. This method works best when the bluegill are fairly deep and when the anglers have been careful to stand off a ways and not do anything to spook the fish.
Not spooking is another trick in bluegill fishing. Many anglers, operating in the belief that all bluegill are stupid, fail to avoid scaring the fish. That’s why they catch mostly small fish, which are young and stupid.
Standing up and banging around in the boat is a no-no. And people fishing from the bank should never walk directly up to the bedding area. They stand back, getting no closer than casting distance to the fish.
Another trick practiced by bluegill experts is fishing the bedding area in the right sequence. If they know where a bedding area is, they stand off as far as they can and cast their lure or bait to the near side of the bed. They work the near edge of the bed before they start casting closer to the bed’s center or far edge. That way, when they catch a fish, they don’t have to drag it through the entire bed and spook every fish there.
Still another trick in catching a lot of big bluegill is looking for beds that aren’t fished hard. This area has a lot of people who like to catch bluegill, and all of the easy-to-reach spots on all of the public lakes get fished hard pretty quickly.
But expert bluegill anglers know that the best areas are those that are good but don’t look it; and those that are difficult to reach.
A spot typical of the first type would be a bedding area on an underwater shelf adjacent to a steep bank. Most anglers would pass up the spot because they believe the bottom follows the same contour of the bank. But the hidden shelf is attractive to bluegill and an excellent spot for the angler who has taken the time to discover it.
A spot typical of the second type would be a bedding area that is either behind or under something which makes it difficult to fish. For example, some places have overhanging trees that make casting there difficult. Many anglers avoid such spots because they don’t want to lose tackle. Or if they do fish them, they get so close they spook the fish bedding there.
Still another trick to catching big bluegill is fishing after the crowd has departed. Not all bluegill spawn at the same time. Some aren’t physically ready when the peak of the spawn is under way.
These late bloomers may not go onto the spawning beds in this area until well into June. They’ll be there, eminently catchable, when most of the bluegill and most of the anglers have gone. By then, the local weather has gotten unpleasantly hot and a lot of people have quit fishing.
Still another trick the experts use is to change tactics slightly to catch redear sunfish, a close cousin of the bluegill. Redear, typically, get a little larger than bluegill. Eight-ounce redear are fairly common and 12-ouncers are not at all unusual.
Redear sunfish spawn in deeper water than bluegill, and they show a strong preference for spawning around some kind of cover, such as stumps, roots, fallen logs, etc. Redear may spawn as deep as 6-10 feet in clear lakes where bluegill typically spawn at 2-4 feet. And redear, seem to be a lot more wary than bluegill. They don’t bunch up as tightly or take a bait as eagerly.